EASTON, Maine — During the annual town meeting earlier this month, Easton residents approved a $1,059,247 municipal budget for 2014.
“That’s up less than $24,000 from our 2013 budget, which was $1,025,643,” said Town Manager Jim Gardner.
Gardner said he anticipates the mill rate will stay fairly close to $16.
“I don’t see it going up much more than one-tenth of a mill, so it should stay fairly close to our current level of 16,” or $16 per $1,000 in valuation, said the town manager.
Gardner said town officials have worked hard to keep the tax rate low.
“Even with McCain’s [tax increment financing] going away a few years ago, which resulted in the loss of more state aid for education, we’re doing OK,” he said.
Gardner said when the tax increment financing expired in 2009, Easton took a significant hit on the school side of the budget, losing three-quarters of a million dollars in school subsidies.
“We went from $1 million to $212,000, now we’re down to $128,000 this year,” said Gardner.
Gardner explained that when McCain Foods obtained a tax increment financing, elected officials voted to drop the town’s mill rate from 20.5 to 14.65, “but they forgot the loss of three-quarters of a million dollars that would occur when the valuation for McCains went up again. Town officials got together with the school board in 2011 and came up with a three-year plan to take funds from surplus so that we’d increase the mill rate as little as possible,” said Gardner.
In the process, officials also had to take into consideration new expenses.
“I think this year we’ll be able to set a fairly stable mill rate. We’re just waiting for the school and county figures to come in. Our goal is to stay under 17. We’re only making up 2.5 mills, when we should be making up 3.25,” which would bring us back to the 20.5 mill rate that was in place prior to the tax increment financing, he said.
“We’ve been able to keep the figure lower, due to growth in the community. It was a great town meeting; everyone’s very optimistic about our future,” said Gardner.
With 29 residents attending the annual town meeting on April 7, voters also approved the purchase of a new grader for $203,000.
‘The old one was a 1983 and lasted 30 years. We hope the new one lasts just as long. We bought it new here in the County, with funds coming from the operating equipment reserve account,” he said.
Residents also approved new computers for the town office at a cost of $4,500, with money coming from the equipment reserve account.
“Increases this year in our budget were largely due to fuel and overtime. A colder winter meant more heating fuel was used and diesel for maintaining roads, as well as OT for the crews. Insurance was also up slightly,” Gardner said.
Three incumbents retained their respective seats during this year’s annual meeting. Scott Allen and Bruce Flewelling were re-elected as selectmen, with Tom Osgood re-elected for the school board.